News

Palo Alto weighs options for new U.S. Highway 101 crossing

City considers 'enhanced overcrossing' at Adobe Creek to give residents year-round Baylands access

Palo Alto's ambitious plan to build a bridge over U.S. Highway 101 near Adobe Creek in south Palo Alto could receive a lift Monday night when the City Council considers various design options for the new overpass.

The project's chief goal is to create a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to easily cross 101 and reach the Palo Alto Baylands. Many currently rely on a dilapidated underpass at Adobe Creek, which is usually open between April and October but which occasionally closes because of flooding.

The council will discuss a feasibility study for the new crossing on Monday and consider the study's recommended solution -- an overcrossing that staff estimates will cost between $5.4 million and $9.4 million, depending on the design.

Staff and the city's consulting firm, Alta Planning + Design, chose an overcrossing at Adobe Creek over other alternatives, including an Adobe Creek undercrossing, an overcrossing at Loma Verde Avenue and both an overcrossing and an undercrossing at Matadero Creek. Staff had already hosted several community meetings, during which time residents chose Adobe Creek as their preferred location for crossing 101. Consultants concluded that an overcrossing would be a better alternative than an undercrossing because it would remain open all year.

"The overcrossing provides year-round access to recreational, residential and employment areas and is anticipated to have the highest recreational and commuter use compared to the undercrossing altnerative," Project Engineer Holly Boyd wrote in a new report.

The idea of giving pedestrians and bicyclists year-round access to the Baylands is far from new. The city's Comprehensive Plan identifies a new crossing as a major need, as does the city's 2003 Bicycle Transportation Master Plan. The city's new Bicyclist & Pedestrian Transportation Plan, the draft of which was released earlier this year, also identifies a need for the new crossing.

So far, the biggest obstacle to the project is cost. The Planning and Transportation Commission, which reviewed the overcrossing proposal in August, was generally receptive to the proposed bridge but asked staff to consider less costly options than the "enhanced overcrossing" alternative recommended in the feasibility study. The "enhanced" alternative would feature wider lanes (14 feet, as opposed to the standard 10 feet), an observation platform overlooking the Baylands, fencing and lighting.

Consultants and Public Works staff concluded that the overcrossing alternative is superior to the undercrossing option "primarily to its year round availability and the community's perception about safety," Boyd wrote in the report.

"In addition when compared to the Adobe undercrossing, the overcrossing poses less compatibility issues with the existing Creek channel and the Water District's concerns about flooding," the reports states.

The cost of the enhanced overcrossing is estimated at $6.4 million to $9.4 million, while the standard alignment is expected to cost between $5.4 million and $6.7 million. Staff may also consider an option that combines elements of the two alignments.

The city hopes the bulk of the funds for the project would come from federal and state grants, as well as from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Bicycle Expenditure Program.

Comments

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Posted by CostConcernsMe
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

I am all for a year-round crossing, and prefer a bridge.
But I am concerned about the cost and from where the money will come.
Is there no year-round solution that uses the existing undercorssing?
Wouldn't that cost less?


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

I wonder why it took so long to have something like this overpass built.
You want to create jobs and invigorate the economy, you work on projects like this. I fully support it.


Like this comment
Posted by Please do it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

Can't wait. Right now my bike commute south in the summer is great because I can use the Lefkowitz Tunnel (at roughly the same location) to get to the bay trails and points south. It gets me into nature and away from auto fumes. I love this commute.

About half of the year, I am forced onto surface streets with motor traffic because the tunnel is closed due to flooding and the San Antonio overpass is deadly for even experienced cyclists as we have seen recently.At night, in the winter, this means I ride in the dark alongside motorists. I use the best reflectors and lights I can buy, dress brightly and follow all of the rules of the road diligently. Nonetheless, I think a year-round off-road trail is badly needed. The existing San Antonio overpass was designed exclusively for cars and trucks and really is not safe for bicyclists. A year-round off-road bike/pedestrian crossing is badly needed.

The bay trails provide one of the best bike commute experiences possible. If we are serious about encouraging people to bike more, the city has correctly identified this as a critically important location for connection. The bike/ped overpass is a great idea for commuters and people who just want to get to the baylands for pleasure. The location has been well vetted. Funding is earmarked through VTA to support this project. Let's get on it before this important window of opportunity passes.


Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

Why is there always money for things like this but not education? Cutting days out of the school year, cut-backs on the arts....but there's enough money to REbuild a bridge? Seriously?


Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

It is unimaginable that this article fails to point out that there is an existing bike/pedestrian bridge over 101 at the end of Oregon Expressway leading to the Baylands area. It is approximately one quarter mile from where they are proposing to build the new bridge. This bridge is centrally located and more than adequate. To suggest that the under-crossing/tunnel is only the way for bicyclists and pedestrians to access the Baylands from the west side of 101 is truly irresponsible.

Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that the city is even considering any public project with a 5-9 million dollar price tag. All we've been hearing from our city leaders for two years is that we are facing dire economic challenges, a grinding budget deficit, and the worst financial crisis in decades. The city has had to cut into essential services, including those in public safety. There are long overdue infrastructure issues that need to be dealt with, yet they suddenly free up millions for a luxury project catering to a niche activity.

Bottom line, the city already has an adequate pedestrian/bike bridge that is centrally located at the east end of Oregon Expressway that crosses over 101. It provides access to the Baylands. More importantly, it is completely paid for. The current bridge may not be as wide as most cyclists would like, or as new or fancy, but under the current economic times it does not seem too much to ask people to take, what, another minute to navigate over the existing bridge a bit more slowly and carefully. A small price to pay considering the millions that would be saved.

Our city leaders need to consider the greater good. Only a minority of Palo Alto citizens would be using this bridge. During this current budget crisis and difficult financial time, the last thing we need is to spend millions on a luxury project, especially when an adequate alternative is already in place and in close proximity.


Like this comment
Posted by Dave Voelker
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:01 am

On a related note, I'd like to thank the Santa Clara Valley Water District for keeping the Adobe Creek tunnel open past its usual Oct. 15 closing. It helps to make up for the access lost due to the closure this past summer. Much appreciated.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:08 am

There is no bike bridge at Oregon.

There is an existing pedestrian bridge at Oregon. Riding a bike is not allowed on the bridge. The bridge has barriers that prevent bike riding. If you can't ride a bike on it, then it's not a bike bridge.


Like this comment
Posted by Walker
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:13 am

"It is approximately one quarter mile from where they are proposing to build the new bridge. "

Not true. As the crow flies it is one mile away.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:16 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Easy - remove the bike barriers on Oregon overpass and let the pedestrians and bikers look out for one another. Biking is a recreation for a small minority even of bikers. Stuff this one.


Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:21 am

The money is going to come at the expense of some other much needed infrastructure maintenance item.

Where are the projections for number of people using it? If high speed rail needs projections, why doesn't this project?


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

WEW: Not that simple, wait until someone gets knocked down by a fast downhill bicyclist. City would be stupid to set itself up for that scenario. Current over crossing is too marrow and too steep for walkers and cyclists to coexist.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Any new crossing must meet current standards for safety and disabled access (i.e. wheelchairs). The old bridge at Embarcadero does not meet current standards for either safety (width, visibility at corners) or disabled access (barricades, steepness). A new bridge is badly needed, as identified in the City's Comprehensive Plan. The amount of money spent on bike-specific transportation facilities is about 0.5% of overall funding, although the percentage of trips by bike is much higher here. These facilities are far cheaper than auto infrastructure (the auto overpass at Tully and 101 is costing $96 million) and create more jobs per dollar spent than auto projects.


Like this comment
Posted by the sooner the better
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm

This new bridge is cheap compared to the $100 million dollar merging lanes that are being added to Hwy 101 right now.

I hope that idiot who says Embarcadero Road is a quarter mile away is not a product of Palo Alto schools. More accurate is 1.25 mile each way.

This is not a recreational project. Hundreds of Palo Alto residents commute from Palo Alto to their jobs on the other side of Hwy 101 and they are forced to bicycle on San Antonio Road (in the dark) when the current path is closed for the winter.

If we want to save money, why not just close the San Antonio overpass to cars during the winter and let bicyclists use that? Cars can use Rengstorff or Embarcadero instead. The extra drive is only a few minutes in a car.


Like this comment
Posted by Rossa0825
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Rossa0825 is a registered user.

This will be a great replacement for the existing seasonally closed underpass.
They may want to verify with CalTrans some details. If the extra cost of the enhanced crossing is mostly due to the wider bridge, my understanding is that Caltrans now requires bicycle bridges to be 15 feet wide, so the narrow 10 foot bridge is probably not an option.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Cheaper by far, a permanent bicycle ferry, a van with bike racks to carry bikes and bikers back and forth.


Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I absolutely can't wait. As it is now, during the months that the Lefkowitz underpass is closed I commute out through Charleston Rd. and across the Rengstorff overpass. That is a nasty cycling route as Charleston in front of the JCC has lots of traffic and now bike lane. You have to ride out in the lane with the cars, which is contentious. It is an accident waiting to happen. The new overpass will finally make a year-round safe cycling route from South Palo Alto to the other side of 101, including all of the employers over there (Google, etc.).


Like this comment
Posted by dan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

First, lets maintain what we have - schools, parks, roads, etc. When there is a budget surplus that would be the proper time to build these additional projects. Now is not the proper time for this.


Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Marrol sez, "It is approximately one quarter mile from where they are proposing to build the new bridge."

My calculations indicate the Oregon bridge and Adobe Creek are 1.24 miles apart.

Walter E. Wallis sez, "Cheaper by far, a permanent bicycle ferry, a van with bike racks to carry bikes and bikers back and forth."

I leave the house at 6:15 AM. Where will the ferry pick me up? How long do I have to wait for the ferry? Do I have to pay for gas? If I have a long day will the ferry take me back at 7 PM?


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Will Walter's ferry carry road bikes, mountain bikes, kid's bikes, tricycles, recumbents, tandems, bikes with trailers, wheelchairs, etc? I used the underpass after the July 4th fireworks show at Shoreline last year, and at 10:30 PM the whole path and underpass was lined with hundreds and hundreds of people on foot and on bikes. No van ferry will work for all the demands, so build a bridge and let people use it with whatever size and shape of (non-motorized) transport they wish.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Make it a toll bridge that operates at a profit. That way everyone benefits.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Hey, you could always use the UP overpass near Willow. Or just acknowledge that the whole world is not bike accessible.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Yes, a toll bridge that operates at a profit like the one at .......? I can't think of any toll bridge that operates at a profit.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm

@Donald,

For California, you are absolutely right, but that's not the point.

Charge $500 per bicycle crossing and it still won't even get close to breaking even.

If they build this, once again the 1% makes the 99% pay for their folly. That's the point.



Like this comment
Posted by decide
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Both OO and Walter have previously stressed in prior threads the importance of separating car from bikes, and the need for a separate infrastructure for bikes, but as soon as its proposed, you both rag on the proposal and try to imply that pedestrians and bicyclists dont deserve separate infrastructure. Make up your mind. Wlater you have wanted to shut down caltrain and provide grade separate to save a couple car deaths a year, but a far cheaper bike bridge that could be a safer means for non-drivers to cross 101, does not qualify, you are both mired in contradictions. Drivers that die from stopping their cars on an active railway must be saved, but both of you have implied bicyclists hit by cars from behind deserve what they get for violating the cars are king rule.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

I've always supported separate infrastructure for bicyclists.

I've never supported taxing non-bicyclists to pay for it.




Like this comment
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2011 at 7:32 am

By far the cheapest solution is to build safe foot and bike access into every road and overpass from the start. The bridges can have separated paths like on the Dumbarton, but built in from the start. The incremental costs are minor, but the cost for failing to do so and having to build separate bridges later is significant. The only reason we're being asked to build this overpass now is to make up for this failure that happened when the current ones were built.


Like this comment
Posted by Decide
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2011 at 8:21 am

We tax non cars to pay for roads already, don't fool yourself.


Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

"Charge $500 per bicycle crossing and it still won't even get close to breaking even."

Only because nobody would use the bridge if it cost $500. Do you think anyone would drive across the $6.3 billion Bay Bridge if it cost that much?

But that's also besides the point, because transportation infrastructure is a public good that doesn't have to be profitable. Roads, rail and air travel have historically been supported by the state. Toll roads have been built by private entities but many were taken over by the government due to losses.


Like this comment
Posted by thanksgiving
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 24, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Thank you to our city leaders for improving bicycle safety around the city and thus reducing traffic congestion, noise, and pollution for everyone.


Like this comment
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

We have more pressing infrastructure priorities, but our civic leaders don't seem to care. Remember the City spent five million dollars for a railroad undercrossing at Homer Ave. when there were two other undercrossings not far away. One at University and the other at Embarcadero. A recent city audit concluded PA has 500 million dollars worth of deferred infrastructure maintenance. BTW I'm an avid bike rider, but this bridge should never be built.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

>>"We tax non cars to pay for roads"

Yes, and we use fuel tax revenues to fund liberal social programs.

If your point is to show misuse of funds by a corrupt government, I fully agree.




Like this comment
Posted by Decide
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2011 at 10:19 pm

My point is cars do not pay for their own infrastructure. They too are subsidized.


Like this comment
Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 24, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Lefkowitz is only open half the year when it isn't flooded. Oregon overpass is a poor design and dangerous at the Oregon end and the frontage road end also. I rode them both during the 40 years that I biked almost daily in Palo Alto. It's about time although I won't be able to use it.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

"I've always supported separate infrastructure for bicyclists.
I've never supported taxing non-bicyclists to pay for it."

I've always supported schools for children.
I've never supported taxing folks without children to pay for schools.

Etc.



Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Everyone was born a child needing education.

No one was born a bicyclist, indeed the fad of bicyclism may literaly die off if you believe the medical research in the field:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm

*** "No one was born a bicyclist, indeed the fad of bicyclism may literaly die off" ***

No one was born speaking English, indeed the fad of English-speaking may literally die off if you believe the Malthusian research in the field: Chinese will replace English as the most common language in world.

Therefore, spending money on teaching English is a fad that needs to die.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm

>>"No one was born speaking English, indeed the fad of English-speaking may literally die off if you believe the Malthusian research in the field: Chinese will replace English as the most common language in world."

Actually, I agree 100% and the sooner the better!


Like this comment
Posted by Mama
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Neal - Homer Tunnel was 100% grant funded, no City infrastructure funding was used.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 3:32 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

How about a $30/year tax on all bikers over 18 to match government funding of improvements?


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 7:51 am

Walter, how much are you willing to spend on the bureaucracy to collect those fees? Bike licenses and registration are generally money-losers, not money-makers.


Like this comment
Posted by decide
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

So if people bother to read the article, they will see that the city intends to go after grant money. The grant money that the are going to go after is earmarked for bicycle infrastructure. One source that has been building bike bridges is the VTA. One of the ways the VTA gets its money is through sales taxes. Charging a fee to bicyclists would as Donald points out accurately just pay for administration of the fee system, not the infrastructure. It would also hurt the poor that cant afford cars and uses bicycles to get to work. While I have a choice and can easily afford to drive everywhere, I choose to run a lot of my errands and commutes on a bicycle for health reasons. Give it a try, you might like it. I can generally get to almost anywhere in downtown PA faster on a bike because parking is easier and closer to my destination.


Like this comment
Posted by bicyclechicka
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 11:26 am

Thank you for pointing out 5 million was spent for the Homer undercrossing. It's appropriate to spread capital improvements for bicycling and pedestrians throughout Palo Alto. Many residents use the Lefkowitz undercrossing from the South and North Palo Alto via a calm ride on Ross Road to reach the baylands and employment. I am totally in support of a bike/foot bridge connection in New Palo Alto that is both a proven and valuable crossing that will comply with ADA standards. Much of the project is payed for by the County.


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Re Homer Tunnel: If we forget history, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Former Mayor Gary Fazzino’s quote is particularly relevant:
"It so often happens that council members and city staff hear the siren song of matching dollars and private support for projects and, because of that fact, move otherwise unimportant or unnecessary projects to the top of the list.”

From Web Link
EDITORIAL: NEW TUNNEL GAFFE REQUIRES SAFETY REVIEW

… the $5.4-million tunnel is more than a year behind schedule -- and it rivals the eastern span of the Bay Bridge for being over-budget, percentage-wise.

… the project seems to have been driven more by funding and grant opportunities than from a citywide assessment of where a bike/pedestrian tunnel is most needed --

Inconceivably, the City Council on Sept. 27 voted 7-2 in favor of retaining eight parking spaces along Homer in lieu of a "contraflow" bike lane for one block that would provide a safer if not ideal solution

From Web Link

In January 2002, the original 1998 estimate of $2.3 million was revised … to around $4 million. … By then, the city had already been promised $2.3 million in outside funds.

Pressure from those agencies, though, was one reason the city was forced in April 2002 to shelve a cheaper construction method -- a switch that drove the estimated cost up to $4.8 million.

… the project has seen a few construction snafus. The most egregious came last winter when the contractor installed the foundation's metal piles unevenly.

It’s worthwhile to read both of these Weekly articles in their entirety to get a sense of the poor planning and poor decision-making on the part of Council and city staff.


Like this comment
Posted by It's all Borrowed Money
a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I hope you people realize that the money that doesn't come from Palo Alto is money the state and the federal government don't have.

It's all money that will be piled onto the debt of our kids and grandkids.

It's great for you to thinik money magically appears from the state and federal government but it doesn't really exist.

If you think spending this moeny is agreat idea, put it on your own credit card.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

If $30 won't cover the cost, make it $50. Issue a sticker for the back of the helmet, a different color every year. At least some of the expense ought to be on the user. Perhaps we could even have DMV issue them. At least it would not be a freebee for bikers.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
wrote:
"How about a $30/year tax on all bikers over 18 to match government funding of improvements?"

I believe this overpass is going to be used by pedestrian too! How about taxing all those who walk (that means you too Walter, unless you are crippled) $20 a year. With tattoos of rotating color on their forehead as you proposed!


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Somebody wrote: "I hope you people realize that the money that doesn't come from Palo Alto is money the state and the federal government don't have. "

That is absolutely wrong. The money that VTA uses for grants has already been collected and is just sitting there. Funds collected for bike and ped projects can't be used for anything else, and it such a small percentage of overall transportation funding that it would not help anything to stop collecting it.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Good idea, Robert. Donald, just remember, a million here, a billion there and pretty soon it starts to add up.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

One source of funding for projects like this that does not take state or federal transportation funds that could be used for roads is the Transportation for Clean Air (TFCA) fund. This comes from a $4 fee tacked on to vehicle registrations in California. Just like owners of heavy vehicles pay a weight fee on their registration to compensate for the extra damage that they do to roads, the owners of motor vehicles pay this fee to compensate for the damage they cause to our air. The funds are disbursed by VTA, but projects must meet strict eligibility requirements established by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Types of projects that can qualify are:
* shuttles to transit stations
* signal timing projects that reduce congestion
* reducing emissions from or replacing heavy-duty diesel equipment
* bicycle facility projects that are in the County plan

This is not a tax, and it does not come out of general funds. It uses money from owners of pollution-generating motor vehicles to improve the quality of our air, which is good for everyone.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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